FFRF member Douglas Marshall sued the City of Warren, Mich., after his request to install a “reason station” in the atrium of City Hall was rejected.
The City allowed a local church group to run a prayer station in which volunteers distribute religious pamphlets, offer to pray with passersby, and discuss their religious beliefs with people who approach the station.
In April 2014, Marshall submitted an application to city officials to reserve space in the atrium for his “reason station” two days a week. Marshall wished to set up a station that is similar in size, structure and function to the prayer station – a folding table and chairs with literature on display and available to the public – except that his station would offer information and opportunities for discussion from a non-religious perspective. The station would be operated by Marshall and other volunteers. Less than two weeks after it was submitted, Marshall’s application was rejected by Warren Mayor James Fouts because Marshall’s belief system “is not a religion.”
Marshall asked the court to declare the City’s denial of his request to reserve and use the atrium space a violation of his First Amendment rights and to enter preliminary and permanent injunctions requiring the City to allow the reason station. On February 3, 2015, the court approved a settlement requiring the City to give atheists equal access to city hall.
Mr. Marshall was represented by attorneys from FFRF, Americans United, and the ACLU. The lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District of Michigan on July 23, 2014. The case (No. 14-CV-12872) was before Judge Marianne Battani.